Spring Preview: Offensive Line

If you've got any interest in putting on football pads and getting pounded by the likes of Maurice Lucas or George Hypolite a few afternoons a week, the CU coaching staff may want to talk to you.

All kidding aside, Colorado will be very, very thin on the offensive line as they go through 15 spring practices over the next six weeks. Heading into spring ball, which begins March 12, the Buffs have just six fully healthy offensive linemen. In addition, junior Erick Faatagi is a seventh linemen who will be able to participate only in a limited fashion as he's still recovering from knee surgery he underwent last fall.

Having only six healthy bodies in the offensive trenches will affect how practices are conducted.

"We're going to definitely have to be creative in our approach to practice," offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich said. "We can't have a 15-play team period. We're going to have a chop it up a little bit, give those guys a blow."

Also important to note, the group will be getting to know their new position coach, Jeff Grimes, who was hired in February. Grimes comes to Colorado after fielding good units at BYU.

The linemen participating this spring break down like this: Seniors Tyler Polumbus and Edwin Harrison will play tackle. Sophomore Devin Head will play guard. And the trio of junior Daniel Sanders and redshirt-freshmen Wes Palazzi and Keenan Stevens will play both center and guard. One or more of the four inside players will also have to step out to tackle from time to time.

A tight end, like redshirt-freshman Nate Solder, could move to tackle during some practices as well, Helfrich said. He added, though, that Solder is still definitely slotted to play tight end, despite his 6-8, 265-pound stature, and coaches think he has the capacity to become a really good one.

The good news: "It gives these guys a great opportunity to play," Helfrich says.

The bad news: An offense that sputtered so often in 2006 needs the opportunity to work out the kinks as often as possible. That's difficult to do without a stable filled with offensive linemen.

It won't be the first time, however, the team has been hamstrung with low numbers on the offensive line. Because of class conflicts and injuries last spring, CU sometimes practiced with just six linemen, Helfrich pointed out.

The numbers issue is the big reason the Buffs signed eight offensive linemen in the 2007 recruiting class.

"We're definitely waiting for that posse of reinforcements to come and shore up some things," Helfrich said.

But for now, the Buffs will make do.

Note
Helfrich said the positive about Faatagi's rehab is that he hasn't gained a ton of weight, like players with similar surgeries are prone to do.

"He's doing a good job with his rehab. He looks good," he said.

Still, it's unclear when exactly Faatagi will be at 100 percent.


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